Maps and more… Kieran’s first blog post for HARP!

Post date: Jun 27, 2017 4:09:39 PM

This week we have Kieran, HARP’s newest supervisor, writing up some of his thoughts on the Jacobites, Clearance and Scots project which just wrapped up on Saturday. We would like to say a big thanks to all the participants this year! We had a wonderful season and are already looking forward to getting back next year! But we’ll let Kieran tell you all about it in what we hope will be his first of many blog posts! ☺

Hello! What an excellent season of surveying we had! The days flew by and I cannot believe that the project is all finished until next year! This year has been another great season, with very well preserved settlements at Tighmore and Over Bohespic being particular highlights. Over the last couple of days, efforts were concentrated on the recording of these fairly substantial settlements. We have, apparently, a multi-phase settlement site with large enclosures, full gable-ended houses and at least two kilns. The historic maps, especially the 1867 1st edition OS map, are incredibly helpful in building our understanding of this site, with the OS map marking buildings, a lime kiln, enclosures and a track-way around the Tighmore area. As with Thomnasallan, Clunes and Craig, which we recorded in 2015 and 2016, Tighmore offers us an excellent glimpse into settlement life in the area around Wade’s Road in the post-medieval period. It also gives the students plenty practice at recording settlement sites, drawing sketch plans and building elevations.

In terms of what I have been up to on my first project as a HARP supervisor, I have spent most days at the lodge ensuring that data entry runs smoothly but also running some sessions looking at historic maps and going over some GIS introductions. It has been an excellent experience, helped by the fact that this year’s group were very hard-working and enthusiastic.

The historic maps relating to the post-medieval period in the Perthshire region of Scotland are fascinating with each map being equally interesting on its own merit. Each individual map highlights a specific moment in the evolution of mapping Scotland. One map that is of particular use in regards to investigating General Wade’s Military Roads is the impressive military survey carried out by Major-General William Roy between 1747 and 1755. Roy’s map was called the “Great Map” by contemporary cartographers and indeed, at its time, it was the most detailed and accurate map of Scotland ever to have been produced. Roy was commissioned to survey Scotland, beginning with the Highlands, after the 1745 Jacobite rising had been quelled at Culloden Moor in April of 1746. The intended primary function of Roy’s map was for use in the event of another rising. This military aspect is reflected in Roy’s attention to Wade’s Road, topography, settlements, and also land use, which is excellent, as it provides us with so much information about what’s going on in and around our survey area. This map, along with Wade and Caulfield’s road network, opened up areas of the Highlands which were previously extremely difficult for Government forces to negotiate, and counter-acted the advantage Highlanders had in battle with their intimate knowledge of the terrain. Although there were never any further armed Jacobite uprisings, in the event that there was one, Roy’s map would have been an extremely valuable resource for the Government forces. However, that is not to say that it did not play in important role in the subjugation of the Highlands, and the increased military control and policing of the region after Culloden.

One of the most interesting and most vibrant accounts written by a traveller though the Highlands in the 18th century is by Thomas Pennant. Pennant wrote a series of accounts detailing his different travels through Scotland. As a Glaswegian, I’ve got to say that I was slightly outraged by his introduction to Glasgow: “Glasgow: The best built second-rate city I ever saw.” Pennant also goes on to compare Wade’s exploits to those of the famous Carthaginian General, Hannibal, stating: “General Wade, who, like another Hannibal, forced his way through rocks supposed to have been unconquerable…” This seems to be genuine praise, which goes against the backhanded compliment he paid to Glasgow and his general condescending tone throughout.

The mid-project weekend off, began with the customary Burns Supper and whisky tasting on the Friday night, which went very well and everyone seemed to have an excellent time, with pretty much all of the haggis being finished! The Ardmore and Old Pultney went down very very well, whilst the Laphroaig’s peatyness seemed to render it a bit of an acquired taste, but that left more for those of us who enjoyed it.

During the weekend off, we also had a project first! A group of participants took advantage of the excellent range of activities offered by Atholl Estates and went for a pony trek in the grounds of Blair Castle! They reported that they had a fantastic time and were looked after very well by the guide with the trek route taking them up to a vantage point where they were able to get a fantastic view of the castle and the grounds. However, they did run into a rather curious group of young cows who had apparently never seen a horse before, resulting in some of the cows having a good sniff around the horse and generally unnerving Rachel, Shannon, Heather and Kristin.

As for Michelle, Tom and I, it was off to have a look for Wade’s Road in the castle ground... because doing that all week was not enough for Michelle and Tom! After that, it was off to have a root around St Bride’s Kirk, the resting place of the Dukes of Atholl. Another noteworthy individual laid to rest there is John Graham of Claverhouse, Viscount Dundee, the Jacobite commander at the 1689 Battle of Killiecrankie, during the first Jacobite rising in Scotland. Viscount Dundee is a truly fascinating figure from 17th century Scotland, and an extremely divisive and controversial one at that. His brutal suppression and hunting of Covenanters in the South West of Scotland earned him the name “Bluidy Clavers”, while in other parts of the country he was idolised as “Bonnie Dundee”. To his men at Killiecrankie, Dundee was a charismatic and enigmatic leader, who inspired them on to victory and provided cohesion through the army. The legend goes that he was killed by an injury sustained from a silver coin fired from a Government sniper in Urrard House at the Battle of Killiecrankie, which only emphasises his legend and status in history. In reality, he died as a result of a musket wound sustained as he was leading a daring, and rather brave, cavalry charge down the centre of the field at the Battle. Dundee’s armour was robbed from his tomb in the chapel vault and sold onto a group of tinkers, however, it was recovered, and the breastplate is now on display at Blair Castle. The area we stay and work in during the project is awash with Jacobite history and archaeology, with Blair Castle and the Dukes of Atholl playing vital roles in every Jacobite rebellion in Scotland, and as such, it is a great place to stay, particularly when we have many participants who have never been to Scotland before.

After our visit to St Brides, Michelle and I explored the secluded, quiet and extremely beautiful Hercules Garden at Blair Castle, which contained some very interesting follies, sculptures, and plants. We even found an estate map from the mid-18th century that included the path of Wade’s Road through the castle grounds! It would be fantastic to have a closer look at this particular map. We also managed a quick visit to the Killiecrankie visitor site so Tom could have a look around, as he had not been before, he seemed delighted to get pictures of the A9 road bridge that hugs the side of the Pass and the railway viaduct completed in 1863. The day our was completed with a hangover busting dinner and a pint in Pitlochry before we headed back to pick up the students who had been visiting all the highlights of Blair Atholl.

Aside from surveying, data entry, and GIS work, the second week was broken up by Wednesday’s field trip to Ruthven Barracks, The Highland Folk Museum and a tour around the magnificent Dalwhinnie Distillery. ( Everyone seemed to really enjoy the trip, with Highland Folk Museum, in particular, being marked out for praise. Tom was particularly taken by the café and shop and general set-up of the museum… and also the 18th century wheelbarrow.

The reconstructed 18th century township of Easter Raitts is a great place to visit whilst on a project investigating the post-medieval period in Scotland. The township began life as an experimental archaeology project and has grown since then. It clearly demonstrates the various styles and methods of house building and it really helps us to understand the sites that we come across in the field, especially buildings. It is a relaxed and informative heritage site that allows for a really immersive experience of the post-medieval and recent past in the Highlands.

Although it is sad that the time has come to leave the Forest Lodge, one thing is for sure, the future is bright for this project, and maybe others, in terms of conflict archaeology, prehistoric archaeology and post-medieval archaeology. The Atholl Estate and the surrounding areas are alive with a great variety of archaeology.